What Does It Take to Work at an IT Help Desk?

IT help deskFinding a great IT help desk worker can be challenging. At the same time, there are plenty of eager IT workers looking for jobs, thinking, “Where are all these jobs I keep hearing about? Isn’t IT service management one of the best fields to get into these days?”

Sometimes it seems as if every IT service management position you hear about is like a tech-themed “missed connections” post from Craigslist: “You were on the corner of Broadway and 31st complaining over the phone about how hard it was to keep your help desk staffed. I was waiting for the 102 bus and had to board before I could get your attention. I have two years of IT help desk experience plus experience as a freelance developer …”

Whether you’re trying to staff an IT help desk or you’re an IT help desk employee looking for a help desk job, there are certain skills that are rock-bottom-required basics, and others that can help IT service management candidates stand out among applicants. Here are some of the most commonly sought-after skills.

The Necessary Skills

If you’re an IT worker, these skills are the basics that IT help desks look for:

1. Troubleshooting PC problems in real life .
Can you diagnose malware incidents quickly? Are you the person your neighbors/roommates/family call when they can’t get the printer to work?

2. You know when it’s time to do an OS reload.
Knowing when to cut your losses is both an art and a science.

3. You have good Google-fu.
When your grasp of terminology helps you do great research for figuring out unusual problems, your value to an IT help desk increases.

4. You have your A+, Microsoft-certified desktop support technician, and Network+ certifications.
Help desk workers generally have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, certifications, or diplomas in information technology and a handful of basic certifications.

5. You understand the importance of good customer service skills.
After all, it isn’t just about technology. It’s about helping people do their jobs.

Great Bonus Qualifications

If you have the following skills (or if you’re hiring and you see these skills in a job candidate), then the IT help desk will probably benefit from them.

1. Excellent writing skills.
If you write clearly and grammatically and can express technical problems and solutions that the average end user can understand, then you will be a big asset to an IT help desk, particularly if it uses help desk software that builds a knowledge base from resolved tickets.

2. Great phone skills.
Your phone interview is extremely important, not just for discussing qualifications, but also because your potential employer can gauge your phone skills. You’re not going to come across well if you’re eating Fritos while slumped in a beanbag chair. But if you make it clear that you’re listening, don’t interrupt, and answer in a friendly and thoughtful manner, you’re gold.

3. Good mechanical skills.
Do you work on your own car? Do you run sound and lighting for a local theater company? If you have skills making mechanical and electrical things work, this can be a big plus to an IT help desk.

Skills That Say, “Hire This Person Immediately.”

There are some skills that should prompt a smart IT recruiter to pounce before someone else hires you. If you have any of these ninja-level skills, make sure they go on your resume and that you bring them up in your interview:

1. Direct experience with (or certifications from) software and hardware vendors.
If these match up with the vendors the employer uses, you have a huge advantage over applicants without this experience.

2. Freelance developer experience.
If you have freelance developer experience, not only do you have the technical skills necessary for IT help desk work, you also have the initiative and discipline to get things done without being micromanaged.

3. Programming language certifications.
If you have experience or certifications, you probably have the strong attention to details plus the analytical skills that any company would be lucky to get in a help desk worker.

Great IT help desk workers and great help desk software are two of the best investments a company can make. With a knowledge base that’s automatically updated based on resolved service tickets and a self-service portal that allows motivated end users to solve their own minor IT problems, your help desk workers are free to tackle the more difficult IT issues that arise. This allows your business to run smoothly, and prevents wasted time and money due to workers who can’t be productive because of computer problems.

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